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Five for Friday

In the Land of Edwardsjonathan-edwards

In this week’s edition of Five for Friday, our blog interview feature, we welcome Rev. Stephen LaValley, a PCA pastor in Enfield, CT, the same town in which Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

If you know of a Reformation pacesetter that we should interview, please email us and we’ll feature their story as someone leading the way for Reformation.

What is the religious historical significance of the area in which you minister?

On the right hand side of Route 5, in the south-central portion of Enfield, in front of a day-care facility for children, under the overgrown bushes there is a medium-sized stone.  Long-forgotten, it memorializes July 8, 1741, the date upon which Jonathan Edwards preached his magisterial sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Enfield was one of the first sites in New England where revival began, brought about by that great sermon.  Soon, some 300 souls were accounted as being added to the Kingdom of God. This wasn’t only due to Edwards’ preaching, but also numerous other colonial ‘Clergymen’ who were preaching throughout the countryside to the common folk with simple exposition of the Scriptures.  Many more souls would be added to the Kingdom of God through itinerant preaching ministries and the outbreak of The Great Awakening all over New England.

Today, however, no Reformational presence remains in Enfield or the surrounding community.

What is the most difficult aspect of ministry there?

The most difficult aspect of ministry today in Enfield is very much the same as it was in Edwards’ day.  He would complain of declining ‘moral principles’, declining church membership, and a general lack of the knowledge of God and concern for one’s standing before Him.  That same spiritual lethargy, or outright rebellion, remains in place today.  Among professing Christians, rampant Arminianism steals from the glory of God in the salvation of sinners while leaving men and women without the foundation of an assurance founded upon the gracious promises of a loving, justifying God.

There is a prevailing pagan/unbelieving mindset amongst non-Christians that sees little need of God or simply knows nothing, by choice, of Him.  Many are simply agnostic.  Others are turned off to ‘religion’ because of the rampant sexual abuse of the Roman Catholic clergy throughout New England.  Some 21 Roman Catholic churches in our immediate area will be closing soon due, in large part, to people leaving Roman Catholicism in droves.  Sadly, they are not seeking an alternative. They are merely ceasing their practice.  There is also a significant and growing presence of Islam in our area with 3 mosques and a number of Sufi communities.

In addition, those professing to be ‘Christian’ or ‘evangelical’ tend to gravitate to the more charismatic or Pentecostal-influenced churches where modern ‘tastes’ for spontaneity and excitement can be assuaged.  In fact, when folks come to visit and participate in our worship, the typical comment is that we are ‘a lot like the Catholic church.’  As I’ve spoken to and visited with these folks, they are essentially responding to what they perceive as the ‘regimented’ order of our worship.  Our worship is traditional (not for tradition’s sake) because of our Reformed and biblical convictions that worship must be offered unto God and set forth in as simple and unadorned a way as Scripture permits and commands.  Additionally, either myself or one of our two Ruling Elders participates in the leadership of our worship.  This, too, is different from what they usually see.

Christians seem to have little or no understanding or knowledge of what pleases God in worship (Romans 12:1) and little burden to concern themselves with the effort of finding out!

These prevailing perspectives, I have found, seem to come from, not only what is coming out of churches in our area, but also the ‘self-esteem’ messages of modern television ‘preacher personalities’ such as Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers.  At a recent Saturday morning Men’s Breakfast in our home, we spent a large part of our discussion responding to the questions and observations of a number of the men regarding how they find either of the two aforementioned personalities to be ‘uplifting’ and/or ‘inspirational’.  In large part, due to this phenomenon, the gospel seems to be fundamentally misunderstood and misapprehended—and this was glaringly apparent as our discussion over our pancakes and sausage continued.

What part of the Reformation message is most effective at penetrating the hearts and minds of people in your community?

One of the great benefits of the Reformation was the propagation of the Word of God.  The Bible remains the best tool of the church today.  Discipleship over opened Bibles with young believers, or men and women who have missed the gospel for self-esteem and individual ‘purpose’, is essential.  Simply proclaiming the cross of Christ and the resultant justification of sinners through imputed, alien righteousness is more often than not something that has never been heard.  Justification by faith continues to be the unfailing cry that must be relied upon by any church that desires to bear fruit for God’s glory.

The message of the unadorned gospel, through faithful preaching and disciple-making, has unending application and power for both believers and unbelievers alike; both in initial conversion and ongoing sanctification.  God’s Word is our only rule in faith and life.

What has been the most effective in your ministry?

Discipleship–that one-on-one, costly, and time-consuming effort to help professing believers and new Christians alike to live grateful lives pleasing to God–is always an ongoing effort.  We connect men and women to mature believers and help them to form sustained relationships.  We also intentionally build relationships with people as a means of gospel-witness and/or simply displaying the love of Christ.

Ultimately, the continued presence and progress of a gospel-proclaiming, witnessing, fellowshipping, worshipping, local church is what we believe the Lord will bless—even if the progress is often slow and indiscernible.  We have ministered to the community and advertised the presence of our church in a number of ways because we believe that the community’s awareness of our presence is an essential part of the Lord’s leading them to salvation.

One gentleman recently walked in to our church for worship on a typical Sunday morning and pronounced when greeted that, he “…might come back if [the greeter at the door] leave[s] me alone and if the Word, and none of that other [stuff], is preached.”  He is still attending…

What gives you hope and confidence when faced with a difficult ministry experience?

The cross of Jesus Christ is what gives me hope and confidence when I am faced with difficult ministry.  The Apostle Paul proclaimed, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  There are many discouragements:  slow progress, half-hearted repentance, few conversions, apathy, immorality, the overwhelming costs of maintaining a ministry with physical property in costly Connecticut, a sometimes-lack of awareness on the part of the established church to recognize the mission field that is New England, the difficulty of recognizing and training leaders, etc…

But the greatest danger to our church (any church) is a loss of confidence and hope in the power of God in the gospel of His Son.  The cross of Christ is the only event of faith that gives us any confidence in ministry—it is our only ‘boast’.  In 1734 it was Edwards’ desire to “bring the sinful to a knowledge of God and to the experience of spiritual rebirth.”  This is our driving concern and the constant repetition of our prayer.  We are praying for badly-needed revival to come again to Enfield and to New England.

Stephen LaValley is the pastor of Grace Chapel in Enfield, Connecticut. For more information, feel free to email the Rev. LaValley.

Watch out, Texas. Dad Rod is comin’

If you can’t get enough of Rod Rosenbladt on the WHI, you’ll have a rare chance to see him in person when he and Craig Parton (a regular contributor to Modern Reformation) speak at the “Defending the Faith Apologetics Symposium,” October 30-31 in Tomball, Texas.

For more information, visit out friends at New Reformation Press. While you are there be sure to take advantage of their pre-Christmas, 10% off everything in the store sale. They’ve built up a veritable treasury of Reformation merit over there and for a limited time you can get a great deal!

Wright Wednesdays: Part 6

[We’re continuing with Mike Horton’s review of N. T. Wright’s Justification, a response to the critique of John Piper and others to his version of the New Perspective on Paul, especially as it relates to the Reformation’s understanding of justification.]

Justification, Faith, and Faithfulness: The Works of the Law

So far, Wright has approximated a traditional Reformation definition of justification several times: representation and substitution, a courtroom verdict—not that people are morally virtuous, but that they are right before God simply by virtue of his verdict, on the basis of Christ.  So then it seems odd that he should say so emphatically, referring to Romans 2:11-16a, that “to be justified” cannot mean for Paul “’to be granted free forgiveness of your sins,’ ‘to come into a right relation with God’ or some other near-synonym of ‘to be reckoned “in the right” before God,’ but rather, and very specifically, ‘to be reckoned by God to be a true member of his family, and hence with the right to share table fellowship.” However, Wright exaggerates the Reformation position in order to define justification as “God’s declaration of membership” (116).  Though forgiveness/imputation and covenant membership are obviously connected in Paul’s thinking, to declare someone righteous is different from declaring someone to be a member of a group.

As is well-known, Wright affirms the “faithfulness of Christ” (pistis Iēsou Christou) interpretation of Richard Hays (117).  “‘The faithfulness of the Messiah,’ in the sense described in the previous chapter—his faithfulness to the long, single purpose of God for Israel—is the instrument, the ultimate agency, by which ‘justification’ takes place…And the way in which people appropriate that justification, that redefinition of God’s people, is now ‘by faith,’ by coming to believe in Jesus as Messiah” (117).

First, in the light of this last statement, wouldn’t “faith in Christ” make more sense? Second, does it make any sense for individuals to “appropriate” a “redefinition of God’s people”?  One may appropriate (or better, receive) God’s verdict of right-standing, but how can one’s believing affect the redefinition of God’s people one way or the other? Even on Wright’s own terms, there is no way to escape the fact that Paul is speaking about a transfer of someone from a state of condemnation to a state of right-standing and forgiveness in justification.  “‘Works of the law’ cannot justify, because God has re-defined his people through the faithfulness of the Messiah” (118).  “Nor, of course, is the idea of faith in Jesus Christ hereby rendered unnecessary: that is the very next thing Paul says in [Rom] 3:22, exactly as in Galatians 2:16.  God’s righteousness is unveiled through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah on the one hand, and for the benefit of all who believe on the other” (203).

Regardless of how one comes down on the genitive construction, the traditional Reformed view certainly includes Christ’s active obedience—his representative, federal (covenantal) fulfillment of the law—as the basis for both soteriology and ecclesiology.  So once again I wonder why Wright is averse to Christ’s active obedience and the concept of imputation?  He adds, “But in Romans 3:20 Paul does explain the meaning of the quotation [“By the works of the law no flesh shall be justified”], by adding, ‘For through the law comes the knowledge of sin’” (118).

Before moving on to Wright’s analysis, it is worth asking whether Paul’s justification for his claim that no one will be justified by works of the law makes sense in Wright’s view.  How could a Gentile become aware of his sin by kosher laws?  Wright believes that the “Gentiles” who “by nature” do some of the things prescribed in the law written on their conscience are actually Christians rather than the noble pagan.  But Paul says that Jews and Gentiles come to know their sin by the law, whether written on tablets or on the conscience.  Thus, every mouth is stopped (Rom 3:19).  How could Gentiles come to know their sin if “the works of the law” are merely the particular commandments given to Israel to distinguish Jews from the nations?  And why does Paul later mention even his own case of coveting in 7:7 rather than, say, keeping Sabbath?  It was because Paul did keep Sabbath, but nevertheless violated the moral law (Phil 3:9).

Wright tries to explain Romans 3:20 in less reductionistic (“covenant membership”) terms than he does, by my reckoning at least, in earlier works: “There are, then, two interlocking reasons why ‘works of the law cannot justify.’  First, God has redefined his people through the faithfulness of the Messiah, and ‘works of the law’ would divide Jew from Gentile in a way that is now irrelevant.  Second, ‘works of the law’ will never justify, because what the law does is to reveal sin.  Nobody can keep it perfectly” (118). Now he’s sounding like the reformers again!  However, if “works of the law” refer only to boundary markers between Jew and Gentile, it’s obvious that Jews could—and did—keep the law in that sense.  Paul does not indict Jews for being uncircumcised or eating with Gentiles, but for failing to keep the moral commands while glorying in their ritual cleanness.

Expanding “works of the law” beyond mere boundary markers of covenant membership is further in evidence when he writes,

‘Transgression,’ we should note, is the actual breaking of the law, whereas ‘sin’ is any missing-of-the-mark, any failure to live as a genuine human being, whether or not the law is there to point it out.  Paul is still, in other words, continuing to explore the theological dimensions of the situation Peter had put himself in.  Either you stay in the Jew-plus-Gentile family of the Messiah, or you erect again the wall of Torah between them—but there will be a notice on your side of that wall, saying, ‘By the way, you have broken me’—both in general, because nobody keeps it perfectly, and in particular, because you have recently been living ‘like a Gentile, not like a Jew’ (Galatians 2:14).

Again he does not seem to understand the Reformation view, allowing only for two interpretations: justification = either (a) a moral quality / God’s own non-transferable attribute of righteousness or (b) membership in God’s family.  Justification “denotes a status, not a moral quality.  It means ‘membership in God’s true family’” (121).  He says, “The lawcourt metaphor behind the language of justification, and of the status ‘righteous’ which someone has when the court has found in their favor, has given way to the clear sense of ‘membership in God’s people’” (121).  By why not read it the other way: the former as the rationale for the latter?  Even in Wright’s own construction here, “someone” is declared righteous when the court has found in his or her favor.  Actual persons are “declared righteous.”  That is semantically distinct from “membership in God’s family,” even if it is the basis for it.  Once more, in the form of “not just this, but also that” ends up excluding “this”:

But the problem is not simply that the law condemns (though it does), shows up sin (though it does) or indeed encourages people into self-righteous ‘legalism’ (which Paul does not mention at all, in this chapter at least).  The problem is that the law gets in the way of the promise to Abraham, the single-plan-through-Israel-to-the-world, first by apparently choking the promise within the failure of Israel (Galatians 3:10-14), then by threatening to divide the promised single family into two (Galatians 3:15-18), then finally by locking everything up in the prison house of sin (Galatians 3:21-22) (123).

Wright reads Romans 2 as saying that Israel failed in its missionary enterprise, not in its faithfulness to the law.  Israel is under the curse because it has “proved unfaithful to the commission (despite the boast of Romans 2:17-20)” (124).  “‘Unfaithful’ here [2:17-20] does not mean ‘unbelieving’ in the sense of simply ‘refusing to have faith in God.’  It means ‘unfaithful to God’s commission” (198).  But then why does Paul contrast the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant, especially in Galatians?  In Galatians 3:16, 21-22, Wright interprets, “Yes, he says: there was nothing wrong with the law in itself, and had it been possible for a law to have been given which could have given life, then righteousness would have been on the basis of the law—the very thing which Galatians 2:21 had denied” (126).  But why would Paul have said this if the only issue was extending the Abrahamic promise to the world?  Paul’s point is that the law cannot give life, because it cannot give righteousness (justification) because of sin.

Where Wright is correct is in his insistence, “In fat, what appear to Western eyes as two separate issues—salvation from sin on the one hand, a united people of God on the other—seem to have appeared to Paul as part and parcel of the same thing” (127).  “Paul is not saying, as traditional readings have had it, that ‘the law was a hard taskmaster, driving us to despair of ever accomplishing its demands, so that we would be forced to flee to Christ to find an easier way, namely faith” (129).  But Wright can only dismiss this interpretation of Paul because he has reduced the law-promise contrast to the question of covenant membership.  For Paul, faith is opposed to works (and not just some, but all) not only because it keeps the gospel from going out to everyone, but also because (more basically), the gospel itself is distinct from the conditional terms of Sinai!  Where Paul sees the gospel as necessarily implying the reconciliation of human beings to each other, Wright sees the gospel as practically reduced to this social dimension:  “The promises God made to Abraham were a covenant.  Genesis 15 says so, Paul says so (Galatians 3:15, 17); that is the assumed starting point for the whole passage.  The covenant always had in view the liberation of the entire human race from the plight of Genesis 3-11, in other words, God’s dealing with the problem of human sin and the consequent fracturing of human community…” (133).

Boxing at shadows again, Wright opposes the Roman Catholic view as if it were the “old perspective” of the Reformation:

But the verdict of the court, declaring, ‘This person is in the right’ and thus making her ‘righteous’ not in the sense of ‘making her virtuous,’ infusing her with a moral quality called ‘righteousness,’ but in the sense of creating for her the status of ‘having-been-declared-in-the-right,’ is the implicit metaphor behind Paul’s primary subject in this passage [Gal 3], which is God’s action in declaring, ‘You are my children, members of the single Abrahamic family’ (135).

Does he really think the old perspective advanced rather than rejected justification as infused righteousness?

Wright does indeed see Christ’s obedient life and death as the basis for eschatological salvation:

The basis for all this, in theology and eschatology, is the faithful, loving, self-giving death of the Messiah.  This is the theological point of reading pistis Christou and its cognates in terms of the Messiah’s own faithfulness; and this brings us as close as Galatians will let us come to what the Reformed tradition always wanted to say through the language of ‘imputed righteousness’ …But this does not mean that he has ‘fulfilled the law’ in the sense of obeying it perfectly and thus building up a ‘treasury of merit’ which can then be ‘reckoned’ to his people.  That scheme, for all its venerable antecedents in my own tradition as well as John Piper’s, always was an attempt to say something which Paul was saying, but in language and concepts which had still not shaken off the old idea that the law was, after all, given as a ladder of good works up which one might climb to impress God with one’s own moral accomplishments (135).

“God’s promises to Abraham were stuck in the Deuteronomic curse, and could not go forward in history to their fulfillment,” flowing out to the world” (136).  But his choice of the term “curse” is crucial here.  It’s not just that Sinai stood in the way of Zion by virtue of the former’s exclusive claim upon Israel.  Rather, it is that Israel too—like the Gentile world—is under the condemnation of the law.

Next week, we’ll move on to chapter 6 and begin reviewing Wright’s treatment of other Pauline texts.

WHI-963 | Christianity & Popular Culture

Americans are addicted to Pop-Culture. But what exactly is popular culture, and how has it affected the way American Christians think about and practice their faith? Joining the White Horse Inn panel for this discussion is Ken Myers, producer of Mars Hill Audio and author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes. (Originally broadcast April 27, 1997)


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Artist: Dave Hlebo

Gospel Driven Life

Have you seen Mike Horton’s latest book, The Gospel Driven Life, on the web? Here are a few nice mentions. Thanks for the advance press, folks!








Let’s Try This One More Time

What is the relationship between evangelicals and the Reformation? It’s a topic that we’ve spent quite a lot of time on, but some folks are still confused.

It was recently brought to our attention that at the September 3rd debate between Roman Catholic Francis Beckwith and evangelical Baptist Timothy George, Beckwith said the following:

If you ask the editorial board of Modern Reformation magazine, evangelicals are the theological heirs of Lutheran and Reformed scholasticisms in all its forms in a variety of denominations. This, however, according to some would exclude most Pentecostals, Wesleyan, and Church of Christ bodies as well as some Anglican communities.

Well, interestingly enough Dr. Beckwith didn’t ask our editorial board (granted, it is difficult to find us most days, our residing in beautiful southern California, and all). If he had, we could have told him it was an interesting point, but not one that we shared. Not knowing Dr. Beckwith’s own views, we can only state that we think that evangelicals aren’t the theological heirs of the Reformation.

For more information about evangelicalism difficult relationship with the Reformation, be sure to take a look below at just a few of the many article we’ve published on this topic.

If you or Dr. Beckwith needs me, I’ll be at the beach.

To Be Or Not to Be: The Uneasy Relationship Between Reformed Christianity and American Evangelicalism.

The Battle Over the Label Evangelical

The Evangelical Narrative: Getting Rid of the Church (Don Williams, a regular MR contributor, will be offering a response to this article by D.G. Hart in the November/December 2009 issue. You can participate in the discussion by signing up for our Free Trial.)

Looking for a Reformation Experience?

Friend of the Inn, Martin Downes, reports:

Over the summer we started a Curry Club for men at our church where we have ended the meal by listening to an episode of The White Horse Inn and having a discussion together about the issues raised. Great food, great listening, and plenty to discuss. I recommend it.

Thanks, Martin. And we recommend more supporter-based experiences like Martin’s Curry Club (and they can include girls, too; that whole cootie thing is WAY overrated).

Reformation, like the pilgrim life, happens best when it is done in community. What community experience can you create to help people discover the rich insights of the Reformation for themselves? Since we haven’t yet decided if or when we want to open up blog comments on this newest venture of ours, please post your ideas on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll begin featuring them on our website as places for people to get plugged-in.

Reformation Now!

Ever since Paul addressed the philosophers in Athens, there has been but a small number of those who embrace the gospel.  The church has nevertheless grown throughout the world precisely through such witness.

In our own nation’s religious history, we’ve always had skeptics, deists, various cults, transcendentalists, and atheists who kept us on our toes.  Not only theologians and pastors, but many people in the pew were at least able to formulate the Christian faith over against the arguments of its detractors.  They could reach for the Trinity, Christ’s Incarnation, vicarious Death and victorious Resurrection, as well as the doctrines of original sin and justification, as the Christian answer to the perennial paganism of our fallen hearts.

However, today, we have an entirely new situation.  We’re faced by a bewildering diversity of religions, spiritualities, and philosophies, which often coalesce to form an impressive opposition to any particular creed and its claim to ultimate truth.  At the very time that the culture is most distant even from any implicit Christian memory and seems most powerfully anti-Christian, not only the people in the pew but pastors and theologians seem the least capable of articulating the Christian faith, much less of offering persuasive arguments for it.

The August 31 (2009) issue of Newsweek features an article titled “We’re All Hindus Now.”  Lisa Miller acknowledges, of course, that most Americans aren’t practicing Hindus, but she appeals to various surveys to show that even most Christians—including many evangelicals—in America today embrace more Hindu tenets than Christian ones.  She refers to two examples.  First, the resurrection of the body.  She points out that most Americans apparently assume that at death the soul—that is, the real part of a person, is finally released from its bodily prison-house, to float off somewhere or to be reincarnated.  Second, she refers more generally to the widespread belief that all paths lead to God or the divine: another major Hindu tenet, but opposed to Christianity’s central claim that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator and Savior.

Non-Christian writers like Harold Bloom can write a best-selling book arguing that the pervasive American religion is basically Gnosticism and a bevy of sociologists can confirm all of this from their own angles, but none of this seems to register in the evangelical world as an alarming state of affairs.  We keep hearing that our doctrine is fine; in fact, we teach too much.  Our problem is that we’re not living transformed lives.  I think we need a reformation at the roots.

We’ll always fall short of God’s commands for our lives, but if our lives are really no different at all from the lives of our non-Christian neighbors, maybe it’s because our operating convictions aren’t all that different either.

-Mike Horton

What if God Was a Vending Machine?

WWJC: What Would Joel Choose?


Five for Friday

Five for Friday is our new blog series in which we interview Reformation pacesetters: those who are leading the way for Reformation in the own communities and churches. This week, we’re pleased to introduce you to Dariusz Brycko, the executive director of the Tolle Lege Institute, a Grand Rapids based outreach to Poland. If you know of a Reformation pacesetter that we should interview, please drop us an email with a brief explanation of their work and their contact information.

What impact, historically speaking, did the Reformation have in Poland?

Initially, the Reformation had a great impact on Poland! To be more specific, it was Prussia, at the time a vassal of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which became the first Protestant state by adopting the Augsburg Confession. (Today, the Prussian territory still belongs to Poland and is called Mazury, but today’s Mazurians are not native to those lands and know very little about the Protestant heritage of the region in which they live.)

Furthermore, many “early Protestants,” such as the followers of Jan Hus (John Huss), were so heavily persecuted in Bohemia that they fled to Poland. This included Amos Komenski (Johannes Comenius), famous for his pedagogical ideas and a candidate for the first president of Massachusetts’ Harvard College. In 1555, the Czech Brethren united with the Polish Reformed (and even today some members of the Polish Reformed church continue to uphold their Czech heritage).

Many influential members of the Polish gentry and nobility were so interested in the Reformation cause that they invited John Calvin to come lead the Polish reformation. Calvin turned down this invitation, explaining that he already had accepted a job in Geneva. However, he dedicated his Commentary to the Book of Hebrews to the Polish king, and together with other Reformers (especially Bullinger) was always interested in the Polish situation. He carried on extensive correspondence with members of the Polish Reformed congregations.

Poland also had a reformer of its own, Jan Laski (Johannes a Lasco). Laski knew Calvin well, and before his work in Poland he led the Reformed Churches in Emden, East Frisia as well as the Stranger Churches in London.  Abraham Kuyper rediscovered Laski’s important contribution to the Reformation cause, and his influence upon John Knox and Presbyterianism has become well-recognized. While in Poland, Laski promoted an irenic union between the Reformed, Lutherans, and Czech Brethren. This union took place ten years after his death when, in 1570, Polish Protestants united under the Consensus of Sadomir.

Even into the seventeenth century, Poles continued to contribute to the Reformation cause, producing some of the most important Reformed scholastic thinkers of the era, such as Bartholomew Keckermann (who was ethnically German), the famous professor of philosophy in Gdansk, and Jan Makowski (Johannes Maccovius), professor of theology in the Frisian Franeker Academy. Interestingly, Makowski was one of the most popular professors in the history of the academy and attracted many Polish students who later returned to Poland to serve the church. I guess I should also mention that Makowski married a sister of Rembrandt’s wife and thus was related to the acclaimed Protestant painter.

This is only to sketch the impact of the Reformation on Poland in very broad strokes. I still have not mentioned Protestant thinkers and theologians such as the father of Polish literature, Mikolaj Rej, or prolific pastors such as Jakub Zaborowski, Bartlomiej Bythner, Daniel Kalaj. Also, I have not mentioned the schism within the Polish Reformed church that resulted in the birth of the Polish Brethren (later known as Unitarians) and their controversial Italian leader, Faustus Socinus.

In sum, Polish Protestants in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were a vibrant community, which produced many important thinkers. To underestimate their influence is to have an incomplete understanding of the Reformation in Europe’s Early Modern period.

How did Poland’s existence behind the Iron Curtain help or hinder the cause of Reformation?

Before I answer this question, readers need to understand that the cause of the Reformation was already severely hurt even before the Iron Curtain went up. This was due to the 123 years of cultural and religious oppression from Germany, among others.

In 1795, Poland as a state disappeared from the map of Europe and was divided between Lutheran Prussia, Orthodox Russia, and Catholic Austria. In the German and Russian partitions, Polish culture and Catholicism were persecuted, and being Polish was often associated with being Catholic. Poland as a state was reborn only in 1918, but World War II, followed by 40 years of imposed Soviet Communism, in many ways stood in continuity with the political and religious struggle from the previous century against these non-Catholic aggressors.

The election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II confirmed to many that Catholicism was the best guardian of Polish culture and that to be Polish was to be Catholic. Unfortunately, very few people realize today that this idea was foreign to Marshall Josef Pilsudski, the father of the modern state of Poland, who converted to the Reformed Church.

So, as I have said, the cause of Reformation was hindered before the Iron Curtian went up. What might have further hindered it was that some Protestant clergy and missionaries collaborated with Communists, but this was also true for Roman Catholics. In many ways, life behind the Iron Curtain was very beneficial to Polish Christians (both Protestant and Catholics), where true believers, pastors, and priests sometimes shared the same prison cell; and, as Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Part of what Tolle Lege tries to do is to nourish the soil in which these seeds have been planted.

What are the greatest dangers to Reformation now that they are no longer under the influence of Russia and Communism?

The greatest dangers to the Reformation (and also to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) in Poland are secularism, liberal theology, and materialism. However, what endangers specifically Polish Protestantism (especially Evangelicalism) is the church growth movement, the prosperity gospel and, recently, Federal Vision.

What does your group try to do to influence Polish Reformation?

Tolle Lege Institute is not a church and it does not seek to do what the church is called to do.  Thus its goal is to support the educational efforts of Protestant churches (Confessional and Evangelical) in the areas in which they continue to struggle.

We seek to accomplish this purpose by translating and publishing classic works of Protestant theological literature as well as works that will guide people to a better understanding of classic, orthodox Reformed theology.

We are now getting ready to print in Polish our first book (about 1000 pages long), which is the translation of Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson’s Meet the Puritans. This will be the first comprehensive guide to Puritan theology on the Polish market.  Once we have funds, we would like to put together a selection of actual Puritan writings, which will serve as a companion to the first volume. We hope that these two volumes will be popular not only with Protestant Christians but also in university circles interested in Early Modern studies and American history.

We are also raising funds to translate J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. We believe that this work will address questions of theological liberalism common to all Christian, not just Protestants.

There are still many other important classic Protestant works which have not been translated to Polish. This long list includes, for example, the works of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Herman Bavinck, and Louis Berkof.

Finally, our dream is to establish a small research center in Poland where clergy, scholars, journalists, and skeptics could come to research the Protestant contribution to Christianity. However, in order to do this we need to find committed supporters because work in Europe can be very costly.

How can donors who are willing to stand with you help the cause?

There are few specific ways in which donors can help our cause:

  1. Potential donors can contribute to the translation of a specific book. We do not start a translation project until we have all the necessary funds. Anyone can participate in helping with the costs of the books for which we are currently raising money, or even propose a book that they would like to see translated and published in Poland. As long as the book meets our criteria, we would be happy to consider adopting it as our project.
  2. Potential donors can also donate to our general fund, which allows Tolle Lege to exist and develop. This has been by far the greatest need, since it is much easier to find support for specific books and projects.

Donations can be mailed to:

Tolle Lege Institute
P.O. Box # 150101
Grand Rapids, MI 49515

or made with major credit card via our website.

I always encourage any new donors to get in touch with us personally and let us know if they have questions or suggestions, and why they are interested in supporting our work.

Dr. Dariusz Brycko is the executive diretor of the Tolle Lege Institute.

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